After my first five years of teaching, all in fourth grade, I looped with my class to fifth grade. Many people asked me if I was worried about learning all that new content. I know learning new content can be challenging but the other choice is to learn new kids. That is, in my mind, equally challenging.
I believe it takes me half a year to get to know my students really well. To know their strengths and challenges. To know how to support them when things are tough and when things are going well. To know when to push them forward and when to step back. To know how to ask them questions to figure out what’s going on or what they are thinking.
It’s one of the many things I love about being an elementary school teacher. I have 20-25 kids in my room, all day, every day. I have lots of opportunities to get to know them. I don’t know how middle school and high school teachers do it.
As we near the end of the first quarter of this year I am beginning to feel I know my students. Yesterday was a tough day for several of them and I felt like (by the end of the day, anyway) I had met them where they needed to be and supported them in the way they needed to be supported. All three of them. In addition, there were several other students I helped in individualized ways (helping one find the perfect book in the school library, helping another get back in the swing after a few days out sick, etc.).
It wasn’t a perfect day by any stretch of the imagination. It was, however, the first day this year in which I felt I knew my students and was able to help them in the way they needed.